By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
This is a story about one soldier's service and sacrifice for his country.
Army Sgt. Kelly Keck, 34, of West Liberty, Ky., was a combat medic in Afghanistan. On Sept. 13 he came to the aid of several soldiers whose truck was blown up by a roadside bomb.
"I stepped off the road to try to get to the side of the truck, and the next thing I know I hear a loud boom, and I'm laying on the ground," he said recently.
Keck had stepped on a land mine. Seriously wounded, he was still alert enough to tell those assisting him that he needed a morphine injection for his pain. They hesitated.
"I said, 'I don't want pain. If I tell you to give it to me, you know, I'm your doc, so give it to me,'" he said.
Keck got his injection and was quickly medevaced to a field hospital in Jalalabad, but he ended up losing three fingers on his left hand and his right leg below the knee.
"It was quite an ordeal," the soft-spoken soldier said.
Keck was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he's been recuperating for about two months.
"The care's been really good, at least for me," he said. "I've had no problems, really. The biggest thing is if I have pain, say in my leg, and it's the phantom pain, as a lot of it is, it hurts really bad. Getting the right medication sometimes takes awhile because they start from the bottom and go up to see how bad it is."
Keck is one of 10,000 troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who've been treated at Walter Reed for their wounds. I met him after he received a Purple Heart last week from Army Secretary Pete Geren.
We talked about what's next for him, his wife Oxana and their 3-year-old daughter Zoya.
"I'm trying to finish healing so they can put a prosthetic [leg] on me and train me to get used to walking on it and also fix my hand as much as they can," Keck said. "I've been healing pretty fast, they say, so that's a good sign."
He expects to be at Walter Reed for at least several more months but isn't sure what's going to happen after that.
"I don't know if I'll be able to stay in the Army, of if I'll have to get out and go back home to Kentucky and start over," he said.
Since high school, Keck's been a Marine, a college student, a social worker and a soldier. He joined the Army three years ago after social services funds were cut and he lost his job as a social worker.
"I have a degree in social work [from Morehead State University], and I'd probably like to get my master's so that I can open my own office and go from there," he said.
But first Keck, who's always been there for others, either as a social worker or as a combat medic, needs a lot of help himself to get back on his feet and to get on with his life.
Photo by Bernard Little, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, of Army Sgt. Kelly Keck receiving a Purple Heart from Army Secretary Pete Geren.
1. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Marcelo Velasco, 40, of Miami, Fla.
2. Army Pvt. Charles Yi Barnett, 19, of Bel Air, Md.
3. Army Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Wilson, 36, of Bonham, Texas.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.fieldnotes.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com. The first tribute gallery can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22802019/ and the second at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27336564.